Sunday, February 22, 2009

WBW54: Passion for Piedmont

Sat 21 February 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday has been one of my more consistent efforts at blogging events over the last year or so. What this says about me ... I'm not entirely sure. Last Wednesday, the event was hosted by McDuff's Food and Wine Trail and the theme was A Passion for Piedmont.

I won't bore you with why I didn't post on Wednesday but, as the round up is not yet posted (providing I type quickly!) and weekend also begins with 'w' I bring you my efforts in the hope that I sneak in at the last minute!

Piemontese wine is not tricky to come by in the UK although you might struggle for variety if you are limited to visiting one or two stores. You also might struggle to keep costs down. I was tempted by a £25 bottle of Barolo in Weeton's in Harrogate but commonsense saw me spend less money at Oddbins. Setting me back around £8, I opted for a Balbi Soprani Barbera d'Asti 2006. Yes, that's the same Asti otherwise famous for a much mocked (but also, arguably, much maligned) sparkling wine. Barbera is the grape and the wine comes from the environs of the town of Asti, east of Turin in north western Italy. Unlike Nebbiolo (from which the handsome, but expensive, wines of Barolo and Barbaresco are made), Barbera is a more forgiving grape. Being less difficult, wines made from Barbera are cheaper.

WBW54 - Piedmont

However, difficult is the word I am tempted to apply immediately to this example. This is not an easy wine to drink. Again, we struggled with the wine's temperature. The bottle suggests serving between 18-22°C: we were no where near that. So, this meant that the nose was not forthcoming. There was cherry and some other red berry fruit, some quite marked warmth from the alcohol (13.5%abv) and a few earthy, woody notes. These more developed aromas matched up with what we observed in the glass: a wine ruby in colour but not particularly dense and with a noticeable pale rim.

It's unsurprising that the wine is no ripe fruit bomb. The palate begins with tart, tart, tart cherries which do mellow and do develop into some slightly riper, red berry fruit flavours which then progress on to the more mature earthy, woody, vegetal notes already spotted on the nose. The acidity is high for a red (which you'd expect, not only because of the extreme tart cherry action, but also because that's Barbera for you) and it balances out the alcohol really nicely. There's some very soft tannins but, in the context of the wine, they're really unremarkable. The length is really good verging on excellent.

I realise that this reads like an extremely positive tasting note but, thanks to that high acidity, this is a wine that needs careful matching to food. We were eating pasta with a tomato based sauce and this just didn't have the richness and fattiness to counteract that acidity. Ironically, tonight's dinner (which is pork and is going to be paired with something altogether different) would probably be a better match. If you were sitting down to a roast duck this wine would probably be a great match. It is most certainly not a quaffing wine!

In terms of value for money my gut feeling is that it is perhaps a tad on the expensive side. Had I been eating different food, that opinion might have been different - but I'm going to assume my ambivalence suggests it's a bit pricey. However, one thing I do think this wine shows is how intimately connected to food Italian wine is!
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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I liked your description of the wine as difficult, almost cranky - it required a certain temperature and just the right food pairing. I hope you find a more cooperative and less whiney wine next time you dine Italian.


10:35 pm  
Blogger Alex said...

Hopefully I will! I love Italian wine but (so often) it is all about the food you serve with it! I think if you'd bought a bottle of this and thought you were having a quiet glass while reading a book you'd be mighty disappointed!

12:47 pm  

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